Credit: Samantha Oswald The completed shelter.
Credit: Samantha Oswald The wall 1 assembly demonstrates the depth and modulation of light that brick can achieve.
Credit: Samantha Oswald Each brick was hand-molded in a CNC-milled mold.
Credit: Samantha Oswald The wall 1 and roof assemblies.
Credit: Samantha Oswald The shelter is designed so the thermal mass of the brick stores the heat of a fire.
Credit: Samantha Oswald Light filtering through wall 1.
Credit: Samantha Oswald Three surfaces, three different assemblies.
Credit: Samantha Oswald View of the shelter.
Credit: Samantha Oswald The versatility of the chosen brick shape is exploited for the different surfaces of the shelter.
This small shelter was part of a Master's thesis investigating the role of brick in contemporary construction. It employs a unique saddle-shaped brick that adapts to different uses according to the direction in which it is laid. The bricks were hand-molded in a CNC-milled mold and fired on site.
This small shelter was constructed as part of a Masterâ€™s thesis investigating the role of brick in contemporary construction.
Brick in the developed world is often reduced to decorative facings that evoke nostalgia for the simpler constructions of the past. However, modules of fired clay offer many unexploited advantages including their ease of handling, thermal mass, compressive strength, and adaptability to local conditions. The project was designed to showcase the potential of brick to be both archaic and avant-garde. By seeking new forms, assemblies, and usages, and by engaging digital as well as manual techniques, the Terracott acknowledges the cultural weight of the material but also anchors it in the reality of the present.
The project was constructed at Grymsdyke Farm in Lacey Green, UK. Grymsdyke Farm is a design practice and workshop that hosts experiments in material testing, digital fabrication, and site-specific installation. It is located on a former farm property near London in the historically craft-centric district of the Chiltern hills. In this area, clay brick has been the predominant building material for hundreds of years.
The work at Grymsdyke farm draws from both traditional skills and current architectural preoccupations. The Terracott is part of an ongoing body of research on the theme of casting; in particular, the material interactions between mold and cast. Studying architecture not as a product but as a process allows the definitions of “heritageâ€ and “preservationâ€ to expand beyond the formal. Heritage can also include attitudes towards materials, relations with landscapes, and the care and craft of construction work.
The clay for the Terracott was extracted, processed, and fired on site. This extreme localism provided unusual challenges and led to the development of custom tools and fabrication techniques. Molds and scaffolding were made using Grymsdyke Farmâ€™s CNC router, a room outside the former stable was adapted as a drying shed, and assemblies and forms were designed according to available resources. A local bricklayer, engineer, and fabrication specialists offered guidance, but the entire shelter was constructed by one person over a span of five months.
The project was not intended as a prototype, but as a provocation. It demonstrates that brick is more than just a durable surface but has depth, versatility, and specificity. It explores the social and environmental advantages of an entirely local construction - advantages such as the exchange of skills between professionals, reduced transportation, and harmonious integration into existing architectural traditions. It leverages technology not to facilitate complex systems, but to enable architecture to perform its most basic function: to provide shelter that is appropriate to its place.